Many of us are invested in the health of our facial skin already - but how much attention do you pay to the rest of the skin on your body? Our skincare expert Gemma Watts reveals her edit of the best products for the body.
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Perhaps it’s because our facial skin is immediately visible. Perhaps, given that the body care industry is reportedly a fifth of the size of the facial skincare market, it’s because we simply don’t have as much choice when it comes to products.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because we prefer to spend our time in the shower simply enjoying the warmth, and we like to keep our time out of the shower as short as possible before dressing.
Whatever the reason, a body-specific skincare routine is essential for our overall skin health.
Having spent a great deal of time trialling products from every category beneath the body care umbrella, I can confidently (and, hopefully, eloquently) share which products are ideal for different skin types, what’s an essential and what isn’t, and, arguably most importantly, which products will and won’t leave you with that tacky “it’s too soon to get dressed” feeling.
Let’s start with the obvious. In most cases, it’s the first body care product we’re really introduced to- and, in some cases, one of very few body care products we take right through to our adult life.
Soap gets a bit of a bad rap in my opinion which is because, historically, bars of soap used to be quite drying on the skin. This is generally no longer the case, with many beauty brands manufacturing bar soaps with an identical pH balance to liquid soaps and body washes.
From a convenience point of view, however, I tend to favour liquid shower gels and body washes and will therefore place solid soap bars in the “non-essential” category.
A shower gel (or soap, if you find a bar more convenient or enjoyable to use than a liquid) is really, truly, the bare minimum when it comes to not only your body care routine, but also your overall hygiene.
In the same way I deem a facial cleanser an essential as one is necessary to remove dirt, oil, grime and bacteria from the skin, a body wash is an absolute must.
Before you ask, no I do not deem “washing your legs” absolutely necessary as per the debate that took over the internet, however I still like to do it. Yes, I know the soap will just run down to the legs as is the nature of gravity, but I am a beauty devotee to my very core and love to play with products on as many limbs as possible, so let me have this one.
So, why is body wash essential? If your skin is dry, the right body wash can deliver hydration. If your skin is oily, the right body wash can balance your skin’s natural oil production.
If you are a living, breathing human being, a body wash is essential in ensuring your pores are not clogged with oil (which also makes body wash even more essential, if there is such a thing, for those who suffer from bodily acne).
The texture of your body wash really comes down to personal preference, and I tend to have a few options on hand in the shower so that I can pick and choose on any given day (this is not essential but, again, beauty devotee).
A lightweight, water-based shower gel can be great for those with oily skin, while a shower milk can help dehydrated skins rehydrate.
I’ve been seeing shower mousses and foams pop up a bit recently, which add a bit of fun to shower time, and shower oils are what I reach for when I need a little extra slip for shaving, or if I just want to add some spa-quality to my shower.
A great all-rounder is the Grown Alchemist Body Cleanser, which I find to be both hydrating and deep-cleansing so it doesn’t strip the skin at all while it clears the pores.
A physical exfoliant for the body will usually be labelled a “scrub.” These usually come in one of two textures - a packet of loose granules (think a coffee scrub) or a thick cream with grains in it.
Intensive Body Exfoliant
Much like the face, the skin on our body doesn’t actually need to be exfoliated, so this is a non-essential step.
However, a physical exfoliant can be of benefit if your skin is dry or if you need a little extra help unclogging the pores.
When I do feel I need a physical exfoliant to speed up the cell turnover process, I opt for a scrub-in-lotion texture.
Loofahs and exfoliating gloves are absolutely not essential. I personally do not use a loofah, however if you want to add some gentle manual exfoliation to your body routine, they can be a great addition.
I personally use an exfoliating glove roughly once per week to remove old false tan a day or two before reapplying. I don’t consider an exfoliating glove or mitt to be an essential, however if you are an avid tanner or if you have skin that is flaky, rather than just dry, they can be particularly helpful.
A chemical exfoliant, for the face or the body, contains either alpha or beta hydroxy acids that essentially work to dissolve dead and dry skin cells (the former is ideal for dissolving dead cells on the surface of the skin, while the latter is better at getting right into the pores).
Never, ever use an exfoliating body lotion after manually/physically exfoliating. Your pores are wide open after scrubbing, and AHAs and BHAs can sting the skin at the best of times. Please, please, learn from the error component of my trials and subsequent errors.
Body oils are not essential, but I love them. Contrary to popular belief, body oils are usually no more hydrating than a body lotion or butter (they just feel more hydrating because, by their very nature, they are oily, but this is usually a temporary sensation), but they are beautiful as both an alternative and accompaniment to traditional body lotions.
I recommend applying an oil while your skin is still warm and damp, to allow for faster absorption.
“Dry” oils are my personal preference when it comes to body oils. Dry oils are usually high in “polyunsaturated fatty acids,” and they are referred to as “dry” based on how quickly they absorb into the skin without leaving a greasy residue in their wake.
Most oils, however, will leave a residue of some description behind, which is why I save them for special occasions and times when my goal is not to dress as quickly as possible.
Personally, I’ll use an oil underneath my body lotion when I want additional nourishment, or I’ll reach for one instead of a lotion if I’m preparing for a special event and want my skin to take on a really “silky” quality.
I also find my false tan glides on with significantly more ease if I’ve oiled the skin around 24 hours prior. I love the Grown Alchemist Body Treatment Oil, and the Chloe Zara Hair & Body Perfume Oil (although I only really apply this to my upper body as I want the scent as close to my pulse points as possible).
Alongside body washes, body moisturisers are the only body care product that I will happily deem an essential. After cleansing the skin, it’s essential to restore any hydration that may have been washed away in the shower (this is particularly important if you like your showers very hot, as hot water strips moisture from the skin).
The most important ingredients to look for in your body moisturiser are hyaluronic acid, ceramides and fatty acids - these will all help the skin lock in moisture and strengthen the skin’s natural barrier function.
The texture of your body moisturiser is, again, personal preference. I like to use a body “butter” or cream with a thick consistency, like the Grown Alchemist Intensive Body Cream, as my skin errs towards dry, however those with an oilier skin type may prefer a more lightweight lotion, like the Leif Lemon Myrtle Body Lotion.